Veganism is a lifestyle choice! The practice of veganism is to abstain from the use of animal products, primarily for food, but this can also extend to clothing, furniture and any other material product. Followers of this philosophy are known as vegans and dependent upon their motivations for becoming vegan, follow this practice to varying extents.
Difference between vegetarian & vegan
A vegetarian does not eat animal flesh of any sort (i.e. chicken, meat or fish) and a healthy vegetarian diet is largely made up of vegetables, pulses, whole-grains, nuts, seeds and fruits but may also eat cheese, eggs, milk and other dairy products.
Many people known as vegetarians also eat fish, however this group of individuals are better described as pescatarians. In contrast, vegans don’t consume anything that comes from an animal or that is made using animal products (dairy, gelatine, honey) and also aim not to use anything made using animal products such as; leather, suede, ivory, fur, wool and silk or that has been tested on animals.
Motivations for becoming a vegan
Today there are many reasons why people choose a vegan lifestyle, adopt a vegan diet and practice veganism. Animal cruelty, health, environmental benefits and wider socio-economic factors are some of those reasons.
Veganism and animal exploitation
Preventing the exploitation of animals is probably the most cited reason for becoming vegan. For many this means that animal lives have an intrinsic value, they are intelligent beings whom think, feel and have a purpose within their relative environs.
They should therefore not experience harm, suffering or death for human benefit nor be treated as inferior beings available for human consumerism. From this perspective, discrimination upon the grounds of species is as unfair as sexism, racism or any other prejudice behaviour motivated by difference. This particular type of discrimination is known as ‘speciesism’.
Across the world people are living longer and there is much greater awareness and evidence of the benefits of a healthier lifestyle. Many view a well-planned vegan lifestyle as the optimum way to achieve this and there is evidence based research linking a well-organised vegan diet to lower cholesterol, heart disease, blood pressure, certain types of cancer & type 2 diabetes.
In addition to this there are many anecdotal accounts from vegan converts about multiple wider health benefits such as younger looking skin, a glow!, bags of energy, improved sleeping patterns, weight loss and a slowing of the aging process.
Human consumerism of meat and other animal products has multiple devastating impacts upon the environment and its natural resources. These are evident at every stage of food production including the demand for crops and water to feed bred animals, the carbon footprint created transporting animal products across the world, de-forestation, animal displacement and extinction of species.
A 2014 US report by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that the production of livestock caused one fifth of greenhouse gas emissions in the US and was the largest use of land globally. Other impacts of this production included air/ water quality and ocean health . As Quoted by Pnas.org
In terms of gas emissions the impact of cattle is well documented, however the conversation becomes more complex when looking at the impact of vegetable production upon emissions, versus the impact on emissions for chicken or pork.
In this circumstance a clear case to opt for vegetables based on a presumed reduction in emissions is unlikely. Nonetheless, research has shown that a vegan diet has the potential to reduce gas emissions by some 53%
as quoted by Scientific American
Nutritional benefits for vegans
A carefully planned well-balanced vegan diet offers all the nutrition required to be strong and maintain great health. A natural consequence of changing to a well-thought out vegan diet is often a tendency to be eating foods that are higher in fibre and lower in saturated fat.
Additionally it is likely to cause an increase in levels of fruit and vegetables consumed. As a vegan it is important to understand which foods provide the nutrients we need such as calcium, iron and fibre. Other essential vitamins include B12, vitamin D, iodine and omega-3 fats. The vegan plate is one of many models providing guidance upon what a balanced vegan diet should contain